Microsoft warns that tech support scammers are becoming mainstream

More and more folks are getting hit by tech support scams, and in fact a staggering two-thirds of respondents quizzed in a global survey by Microsoft said they had experienced such a scam.

Typically, these scams – which involve cybercriminals pretending to be genuine tech support representatives of Microsoft or other big companies – operate via simple phone calls, often playing on telling the user that they have a virus on their computer, trying to obtain remote access to the user’s machine, or even to extract payment for their ‘services’.

But these scams are spreading fast because the criminals have moved beyond the landline and are increasingly using emails, websites and pop-ups to snare their victims.

And this shift online means that it’s no longer older users aged 55+ who are the most vulnerable age group, but Millennials (those aged 18 to 34), as they spend a lot of time online and are “generally less suspicious of technology intrusions” as they have an inherent trust of tech, according to Microsoft’s research.

At any rate, be warned that the scams are becoming more prevalent in the UK, with Microsoft finding that 69% of citizens in this country have been hit by a tech support scam.

10% of respondents said that they had continued with the scam – i.e. they fell for it – and 2% followed the criminal’s instructions to the letter and actually ended up losing money as a result.

US woes 

The good news for the UK was that this was actually one of the better results in Microsoft’s survey compared to some other countries, with US citizens faring much worse. 33% of them continued with a scam, and a very worrying 21% did so and ended up losing money.

The global figures indicated that 69% had experienced a tech support scam, the exact same number as the UK funnily enough, with 20% falling for the sting, and 9% ending up out of pocket.

Microsoft stated that it will never proactively reach out to users to offer tech support, and that folks should be suspicious of any software or services being touted in such a manner – and that you should never give control of your computer over to a third party, unless you can confirm you’re talking to a legitimate support rep.

And of course the easiest way to do the latter is to end the current call, and contact the company yourself (preferably using a different phone to ensure the scammers haven’t remained on the line – this is a common trick with bank account scams these days, where they play a dialling noise when you pick the phone back up, to make you think you’ve redialled).

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).